I got a new computer as part of my effort to rejoin the workforce. The computer is a Mac, and came complete with a keyboard (small) and a Magic Mouse. The Magic Mouse is almost the coolest input device ever. There’s just one flaw.
Let’s start with the good. Since the dawn of time Apple mice have had only one button. It’s a religious thing with the boys in Cupertino, I guess; even while their operating system supports (and even embraces) functionality that requires right-clicking and scroll-wheeling, the mouse has remained mired in one-button land. The Magic mouse technically keeps the one-button faith, while providing support for a huge range of input. There’s one button, but where your finger pushes the button can change the action. The entire top surface of the mouse is a trackpad. You can configure the mouse to have as many virtual buttons as you want.
There’s no scroll wheel, but if you slide your finger down the surface of the mouse it acts like one. Slide your finger side to side, and you’re scrolling horizontally. I really like that feature, but it took some getting used to.
With a little extra software, things get even better. You see, the mouse can track all five of your fingers at once, and can respond to a huge variety of gestures. Pinch to zoom in. Reverse the gesture to zoom out. Twist with three fingers to rotate something. It’s all configurable and it’s sweet.
The only problem with this hot little number: It’s wireless. I don’t need wireless; in fact, the vast majority of people who use computers don’t need wireless. It’s a convenience for those who use a mouse with their laptops, but I’ve always been just fine plugging the mouse in (and in fact some people have had problems when their wireless mice have awakened their laptops and drained their batteries).
Yet somehow wireless is better (rhymes with ‘power windows on cars’). The Magic Mouse just seems “magicer” when it doesn’t need a wire to talk to the computer. There is no doubt that the marketplace has decided “wireless is better” and Apple (and the rest of the mouse-producing industry) is not going to fight that.
So what’s my beef with wireless? Simple. It’s the batteries. Batteries cost money, and using this mouse produces a steady stream of toxic waste. If the purchase cost of a battery included the cost of disposing of the hazardous chemicals inside it, maybe people wouldn’t be so fast to use battery-powered devices where wired power is available. How many AA batteries go into landfills each year, creating a toxic mess someone will have to clean up someday, because people buy battery-powered devices that don’t need to be? Let’s reserve the battery power for things that need to be battery-powered.
I know that technically people aren’t supposed to throw away batteries anymore, but people still do. The chemicals in batteries are just as harmful in the soil as plutonium for the same amount of energy (he says with no backing evidence), but people treat them with cavalier indifference. And sure, rechargeable batteries reduce the rate that toxic waste is created, but they don’t eliminate it. Rechargeables will be my compromise so I can continue to use my wonderful mouse with a cleaner conscience. Wired power has environmental consequences as well, but I’d be right stunned if they approached the harm that battery power causes.
So here I am, using the coolest damn mouse ever, happy with it, and feeling slightly guilty. My old Logitech USB mouse is right here, with lots of buttons and a scrollwheel and whatnot, but it’s just not as good. It’s ok to pollute if you feel guilty about it, right?